CAPPings – Aug 2020

August 14, 2020



July was an interesting month for the Clemson Apiculture and Pollinator Program.  We remain under restrictions that prevent in-person meetings and trainings, and I can understand why.  I, too, caught the COVID-19 virus over the July 4th holiday, which disrupted many plans in the apiaries. My intent was to make significant increases to be able to establish apiaries at two of our Research and Education Centers.  Unfortunately, the virus prevented me from tending to the splits that I had.  The result was only a 40% success rate.  I still plan to establish those demonstration apiaries by the spring of next year.  Hopefully, we will be able to resume field trainings by that time.

Fall program plans are coming together.  There is still a lot of publication updating to complete, but we are making headway.  Also, be on the lookout for new publications on predatory hornets, Africanized honey bees, and wax moths which should be posted this month. We are working with local beekeeper associations to deliver web-based trainings for their memberships.  I encourage all local clubs that would like to have a virtual meeting to contact me if you are interested. Also, we are formalizing plans with the SC Master Beekeeper Program for a fall advanced beekeeper webinar series that will serve as a preparation course for aspiring journeyman beekeepers.  The idea is to have evening lectures offered by SC Master Beekeepers and other experts over Zoom to cover the material necessary to pass the journeyman test.  More information about this opportunity will be coming soon, so stay tuned to the Clemson Apiculture and SC Beekeepers Association Facebook pages.  Last, we will conclude the Needs Assessment survey in September.  I will make one last push to collect surveys from beekeepers and local associations that have not yet contributed.  You can find the link to the survey on the right side of our web page

This week is the lead up to WORLD HONEY BEE DAY!!!  The third Saturday in August (Aug. 15th) is designated World Honey Bee Day to celebrate honey bees, apiculture and the beekeepers who care for the world’s stock of honey bees. This insect has played a huge role in advancing the human condition, and it is well worth acknowledging the contributions it and beekeepers make everywhere, everyday!  Most of our public festivals and outdoor gatherings are curtailed because of the virus, but it does not mean that we cannot celebrate and raise awareness in other ways.  I encourage local clubs and honey bee businesses across South Carolina to make use of social media every day this week to engage your communities.  Encourage your neighbors to plant more flowers and less lawn, post recipes that incorporate honey, give out honey samples, invite folks to visit your apiaries, make videos and share stories.  Let’s show people the positive influence bees have on our communities.  Our program will be posting daily, and you are welcome to share and repost.

Kindest regards,
Ben Powell
Clemson Apiculture and Pollinator Program Specialist






Heat, humidity, severe thunderstorms and biting flies… yep, it’s August in South Carolina.

Most parts of the state are finally in the depths of the summer dearth, but it will not be long before this begins to change.  The agricultural areas should begin to see a bit of nectar increase as cotton and soybeans begin to bloom this month, also sunflowers in dove fields may provide some additional nourishment. Sourwood (piedmont and mountains) has just completed its bloom cycle as have palmettos in the coastal plain. The first signs of fall flowers will begin this month.  Sumac, devils walking stick, yarrows, and many of the milkweeds begin flowering this month.  Bee balm, mountain mint, joe-pye weed, and coneflowers are close to if not already blooming, and in the swamps you can find button bushes, pickerel weeds and swamp mallows in flower.  Rainfall seems to be abundant statewide this year, so it is likely that bee colonies will have enough incoming nectar to maintain but are not likely to add honey stores to the colony. For beekeepers interested in learning what might be blooming in your area, a great resource is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Localized conditions affect local forages, so be sure to check the weight of your colonies.  I have received several calls pertaining to colonies that have died of starvation mainly as the result of robbing.  The tendency to rob increases in a dearth, so take precautions.  Reducing entrances, installing anti-robbing screens and avoiding opening hives can help reduce robbing. Also, the days shortly after moving hives can be critical for robbing as the bees learn their new area and search for nectar sources. Robbing can be difficult to identify, but a few behaviors will indicate it is occurring.

  • Activity at the entrance will be increased, and you likely will see bees wrestling and pulling each other off of the box and landing board.
  • Robber bees frequently gain access through the top vent. Increased bee activity at the top vent and on the inner cover may suggest robbing.
  • Robber bees will cluster at the box corners and seams following the scent of honey leaking from the seams between boxes.

Hurricane season is upon us. The glancing blow by Hurricane Isaias reminded me that we as beekeepers must prepare for both the storm and the storm’s aftermath.  With four of the last five years being some of the wettest in South Carolina’s records, punctuated by tremendous rainfall events, communities across the state have experienced widespread flooding and all of the problems that come with it, including massive emergences of mosquitoes.  Mosquito abatement programs use methods that minimize pesticide application to honey bees and pollinators, but conditions sometimes occur that result in honey bee exposure to vector control pesticides. These exposures can result in lethal or sub-lethal effects to honey bees. Beekeepers should take precautions to minimize exposure to pesticides applied for mosquito control.

  • Contact your local mosquito control program to learn about your community’s program and to provide contact information and apiary locations. There are nearly 70 public mosquito abatement programs in South Carolina.  Eighteen are county-wide programs, and these are mostly the counties in the coastal plain plus around Columbia, Greenwood and Greenville. The rest of the programs are city-based programs that do not spray unincorporated areas. Each program operates and interacts with beekeepers and sensitive areas differently.  Beekeepers should familiarize themselves with their mosquito control program and develop a relationship with the program coordinator. Approach conversations with municipal employees and elected officials with the understanding that they are under tremendous pressure by the general public to manage mosquito populations. This will build mutual respect and allow you to improve the program’s awareness of apiculture.
  • Register your apiaries with the Clemson Volunteer Hive Registry. Some mosquito programs and other pesticide applicators use the voluntary hive registry to notify beekeepers of pesticide applications. The registry does not show applicators where apiaries are located, but it automatically sends notifications to beekeepers with apiaries within a critical distance of the application site.  For your convenience, Clemson has developed a link to use with your mobile device to mark your apiaries. Visit to register and to access the mobile tool.
  • Consider where you locate your hives. Mosquito abatement programs must respond to citizen complaints about mosquito activity. Suburban communities at the urban-wildland interface are frequently where mosquito complaints are highest. Also, the container breeding mosquito species that tend to breed in association with human developments are the same species that carry the most concerning diseases. Avoid placing apiaries in or near residential neighborhoods, during mosquito season especially July through October when afternoon thundershowers and tropical storms are at their peak. In rural areas, avoid placing apiaries adjacent to row crop agriculture because insecticide applications over crops can also be damaging.  Set hives at least 100 feet from fields with row crops, and provide notification to the farmer/landowner that the hives are nearby.
  • Take safety precautions. If mosquito spraying is planned near your apiaries you can protect the bees from exposure using a number of management techniques. Mosquito insecticides used for area suppression are applied as ultra-low volume fogs (ground applications) or mists (aerial applications). While airborne it is available and active, but once it passes or contacts a surface, the active ingredient is no longer available to insects.  Small operations might consider building three-sided shelters with roofs to further protect hives from the spray. The shelter can include a tarp over the fourth side for protection on the night of the application. Mosquito applications do not normally enter hives, but bees that are bearding or washboarding on the outside may be exposed.  If the beekeeper is aware of the day the application is to occur, the beekeeper can screen entrances to lock bees inside the hives. Wet cloths laid over the hives or a water sprinkler can encourage bees to go inside the hive.  Your Extension Apiculture specialist, Ben Powell, can provide more specific guidance on protecting bees from pesticides.  Contact him at
  • Educate your neighbors. News coverage has most residents concerned about mosquitoes and diseases which has led to intolerance and increased pressure on mosquito control programs.  Teaching communities how to reduce mosquito prevalence by eliminating breeding sites, targeting larvae and protecting themselves with fans, screening, appropriate clothing, and repellents will increase tolerance for biting flies and reduce demand for area wide spraying.




The Richland Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Columbia, SC, received a federal grant worth nearly $30,000 to help an area in Southeast Richland bloom into a teaching initiative for pollinator conservation. The pollinator demonstration area at Pinewood Lake Park, which remains closed to the public because of COVID-19, includes 12 raised garden beds. Some of the beds have been planted with annual vegetables and small fruits that depend on pollinators for survival, while others are designed to provide habitat for pollinators. “This garden will model plant selection and maintenance practices that encourage pollinators,” said Anne Marie Johnson, Pollinator Garden Manager.

The $29,287 Urban Agriculture Conservation Grant was awarded through a partnership with the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Nationwide, 21 conservation districts received funding through the Urban Agriculture Conservation Grant Initiative. Grant funding will help rehabilitate, expand and maintain the pollinator demonstration area as well as provide educational outreach opportunities to educators, small farmers, and home and community gardeners.

Richland SWCD Chairman Kenny Mullis stated, “Pollinators are facing many challenges, including habitat loss. We hope our work can help educate the community about the importance of pollinators and showcase things we can do in our own home and community gardens to support pollinator health.” Garden updates will be provided to the public through a weekly Engage Richland “Watch and Learn” video series which debuted on Aug. 5 on Richland County’s YouTube channel. The first “Watch and Learn” session was watched in its entirety by more than 800 people.

The pollinator demonstration area at Pinewood Lake Park. Photo credit: Chanda Cooper, USDA NRCS

The garden includes the following plants:

Purple cone flowers in bloom. Photo credit: Chanda Cooper, USDA NRCS

New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus
Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana
Red Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis

Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Coreopsis lanceolata
Lyre-leaf Sage, Salvia lyrata

Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia rotundifolia
Annual Sunflowers, Helianthus annuus
Blanket Flower, Gaillardia pulchella
Yellow Cosmos, Cosmos sulphureus ‘Klondyke’
Scarlet Sage, Salvia coccinea
Lavender Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum
Three-leafed Coneflower, Rudbeckia triloba

Anne Marie Johnson, Garden Coordinator. Photo credit: Chanda Cooper, USDA NRCS

Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum virginianum
Bee Balm, Monarda fistulosa
Spotted Mint, Monarda punctata
Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
Passion Flower, Passiflora incarnata
Butterfly weed, Asclepius tuberosa
Swamp Milkweed, Asclepius incarnata
Partridge Pea, Chamaecrista fasciculate


Indian Grass, Sorghastrum nutans
Anise Scented Goldenrod, Solidago odora
Smooth Aster, Aster laevis
Goldenrod, Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’
Sweet Joe-Pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum
Scaly Blazingstar, Liatris squarrosa

The garden is not accepting visitors at this time because of COVID-19, but you are welcome to contact the Richland SWCD Education Program Coordinator, Chanda Cooper, at for more information about the project.




Palmetto tree, or cabbage palm, Sabal palmetto. Photo credit: David Stephens,

It fortified the walls of Fort Moultrie and made them impenetrable to British cannon fire. Its leaves are used for basket weaving and duck blinds, and the stems are used for fuel and construction material.  It has deep cultural and historic meaning for residents of the Lowcountry and excites visitors as they approach the beach.  Our flag has borne its image since 1861, and it is recognized worldwide as a symbol for South Carolina. Yes, the palmetto tree, or cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), is one of our most important and recognizable native species.

For beekeepers, it has even deeper meaning.  It is an iconic nectar source that renders a delectable and unique honey.  Typically peaking in June and July, the cabbage palm bloom has just ended, and beekeepers in the lowcountry, mostly in and around the ACE Basin (Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers), are just now harvesting honey derived from this plant. Because it follows the main spring nectar flow, it can be harvested as a “monocultural honey” and marketed as unique. In some ways palmetto honey can be described as the sourwood honey of the coast, because it blooms about the same time and produces a desirable honey that is recognizable by the public.

Flowers of the cabbage palm covered in bees and native pollinators. Photo credit: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia,

The term “palmetto honey” can be misleading. Cabbage palms are not the only source of palm-derived honey in the region.  The saw palmetto, Serenoa repens, also serves as a nectar source for honey bees, blooms at the same time as cabbage palms and lives in the same region in South Carolina.  Actually, saw palmettos are more abundant and probably supply more nectar than their cabbage palm cousins. Both honeys are labeled as “palmetto” honey, but the two honeys are distinct.  Cabbage palm honey tends to be lighter with citrus overtones, while saw palmetto honey tends to be darker and often described as “smoky.”  Despite the differences, both are desirable.  In fact, it has been suggested that saw palmetto honey may have health benefits for men because extracts from the plant have been successfully used for treating prostate conditions.  The health benefits of the honey have yet to be proven under any clinical trials.  Another palm, the dwarf palmetto, Sabal minor, also grows in the SC coastal plain, further complicating the situation, but dwarf palmettos bloom earlier (May-June) and do not produce large flower clusters like saw palmettos or cabbage palms.

Saw Palmettos, Serenoa repens. Photo credit: Patti Anderson, Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms, USDA APHIS PPQ,

Bloom times of saw palmettos, cabbage palms and dwarf palmettos overlap, but they tend to live in different ecosystems.  Cabbage palms are adapted for full sun and sandy soils found along the estuaries and barrier islands of the southeastern coast.  They possess a single stem that grows to 40 feet tall and can withstand wind storms.  They do not tolerate fire, but they can tolerate salt.  For these reasons they are mostly found along forest edges and beaches.  Saw palmettos are very different.  They are multi-stemmed understory plants that only grow to about 12 feet tall. They live in well-drained upland soils and are common in pine flatwoods.  They are very tolerant of fire and can handle some shade.  Dwarf palmettos prefer the heavy soils of freshwater wetlands.  They are the shortest of the three palms mentioned here. Dwarf palmettos tolerate shade, but they are not tolerant of

Dwarf palmettos, Sabal minor. Photo credit: Chris Evans, University of Illinois,

drought, salt or fire.  Forested wetlands in the ACE Basin often contain expansive groves of dwarf palmettos where they are the dominant understory plant in areas that are frequently inundated with water.  Although these plants do not grow together, bees forage over large enough areas that all three palms may be in the forage radius of a colony, which means that “palmetto” honey often is a blend of the species.  Saw palmettos are more abundant inland near pine plantations.  Dwarf palms also are most common in hardwood bottoms and freshwater wetlands, while cabbage palms become more prevalent near the coast. Palmetto honey may take on different characteristics based upon which ecosystem is dominant in the bees’ foraging area.

Palms are desirable landscape plants, but they can be difficult to propagate and transplant.  They are rarely planted in large quantities, but all three species are readily available at garden centers.  For more information on palm varieties, planting instructions and care, take a look at Clemson’s fact sheet on Palms and Cycads and contact your county horticulture extension agent.



Temperature fluctuations during the development of honey bee larvae can alter their behaviors after they develop into adult workers; therefore, honey bees tightly regulate temperature of developing brood.  Heat treatments (hyperthermia), a relatively new technique for controlling varroa mites, has both positive and negative effects on developing adult worker bees.
Kablau, A., Berg, S., Rutschmann, B. et al. Short-term hyperthermia at larval age reduces sucrose responsiveness of adult honeybees and can increase life span. Apidologie 51, 570–582 (2020).

Temperature fluctuations also affect drone development.  Periods of lower temperature produce larger drones.  This may be one reason why drone cells tend to be constructed around the perimeter of brood comb.
Czekońska, K., Tofilski, A. Body mass of honey bee drones developing in constant and in changing temperatures. Apidologie 51, 510–518 (2020).

Do you know what 5-Hydroxymethyfurfural (HMF) is?  Perhaps you should, because it is a contaminant that can form in stored honey and prepared sugar syrup feeding solutions.  Hydroxymethyfurfural forms when simple sugars react in hot, acidic environments, and it can affect both humans and honey bees.
Shapla, U.M., Solayman, M., Alam, N. et al. 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) levels in honey and other food products: effects on bees and human health. Chemistry Central Journal 12, 35 (2018).

Also, HMF that forms in prepared syrups for feeding bees can cause bee mortality.  The practice of adding acids to sugar feeds for bees may increase the formation of HMF and may not be necessary.
Frizzera, D., Del Fabbro, S., Ortis, G. et al. Possible side effects of sugar supplementary nutrition on honey bee health. Apidologie 51, 594–608 (2020).

Researchers investigated several essential oils for controlling Varroa mites in bee hives.  They identified one, Cinnamomum verrum, the Ceyron cinnamon tree, which showed promise.
Barbara Conti, Rossella Bocchino, Francesca Cosci, Roberta Ascrizzi, Guido Flamini & Stefano Bedini(2020) Essential oils against Varroa destructor: a soft way to fight the parasitic mite of Apis mellifera,Journal of Apicultural Research, DOI: 10.1080/00218839.2020.1790790


Honey bees on a Clemson hive



Saturday Aug. 15th – WORLD HONEY BEE DAY!!!

Saturday Aug. 15th – Mite-A-Thon, Honey Bee Health Coalition

Sep-Oct – Fall webinar series for aspiring journeyman beekeepers – TBA


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